Stan Kurkovsky, PhD
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Systems Programming:
Raspbian/Linux with C

CS 355 - Spring 2017

Catalog description

Prerequisites: CS 153 and 254. Design and development of systems software. Topics include machine and operating system organization, hardware/software interfaces, hardware-specific constraints on software applications, and using application programming interfaces and system libraries for the design and development of systems applications.


Dr. Stan Kurkovsky, Professor of Computer Science
MS 303-08
(860) 832-2720
(860) 832-2712
Office hours
MW 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm, TR 10:30 am - 12:00 noon, or by appointment
Class meetings
TR 12:15 pm - 1:30 pm @ MS 204

Textbook and other things you will need

  • Understanding Unix/Linux Programming: A Guide to Theory and Practice, by Bruce Molay. Prentice Hall, 2003, ISBN 0130083968
  • Learn to Code with C from the MagPi magazine
  • Access to a laptop computer that can be brought to class on a regular basis
  • Raspberry Pi kit provided to all students at no charge
  • In-class handouts
  • Companion web site available at
  • Instructor's web site available at and other web sites recommended by the instructor
  • Course project document

Course learning outcomes

Program educational objectives and student outcomes are supported by the following course learning outcomes achieved by students upon a successful completion of this course:

  1. Understand the role of systems programming and be able to apply appropriate knowledge of computing and mathematics to solve systems programming problems (a);
  2. Analyze a system-level computing problem, identify and define the computing requirements appropriate to its solution (b);
  3. Design, implement, and evaluate an integrated hardware/software system that meets a well-defined set of specifications (c).
  4. Function effectively as a team member working on a software development project (d);
  5. Evaluate the impact of devices utilizing the Linux operating system on individuals, organizations, and society (g);
  6. Apply mathematical foundations, algorithmic principles, and computer science theory in the modeling and design of computer-based systems in a way that demonstrates comprehension of the tradeoffs involved in design choices (j);
  7. Apply design and development principles to construct complex hardware/software systems of varying complexity integrating Android and Linux devices using current techniques, skills, and tools (i,k).

Tentative schedule

Please note that this schedule may change as we progress through the course material

Reference: M - Molay, Understanding Unix/Linux Programming: A Guide to Theory and Practice

Week 1: January 15 - 21

  • Introduction
  • Topic: The big picture (Molay Ch. 1)
          What is systems programming?
          Unix from different perspectives

Week 2: January 22 - 28

  • Topic: C programming review
          Data types and variables
          Control flow
  • Topic: The Internet of Things
          Course project requirements

Week 3: January 29 - February 4

Week 4: February 5 - 11

  • Topic: Unix login records (Molay Ch. 2.1-2.5)
          Unix commands and the manual
          User records
          File IO
  • Lab 2: who

Week 5: February 12 - 18

Week 6: February 19 - 25

Week 7: February 26 - March 4

Week 8: March 5 - 11

  • Lab: make up
  • Midterm

Week 9: March 12 - 18

  • Spring break

Week 10: March 19 - 25

  • Topic: File systems (Molay Ch. 4)
          HDD structure
          inode-based file systems
          Trees of directories
  • Lab 6: find

Week 11: March 26 - April 1

  • Topic: Connection control (Molay Ch. 5)
          Devices vs files
          Disk and terminal connections
          Terminal drivers
  • Course project: simple device demo (part 3)
  • Lab 7: write

Week 12: April 2 - 8

Week 13: April 9 - 15

  • Topic: Event-driven programming (Molay Ch. 7.1-7.6)
          OS-level support for games
          The curses library
          Alarms and timers
  • Lab 9: marquee

Week 14: April 16 - 22

Week 15: April 23 - 29

  • Lab: make up

Week 16: April 30 - May 6

Final: May 8

  • Final exam: Monday, May 8, 10:30 am - 12:30 pm

Midterm and final exams

Each test will focus on the most recent material. However, each test will very likely include some questions aimed at the material covered by the earlier test(s). Make-up tests may only be given if a student can provide a written proof of a serious reason for missing a test (such as illness or accident).

Labs and course project

During the labs and the course project students will work on hands-on problems focusing on the material covered in class lectures and reading assignments. Students are required to work on labs individually. Each lab must be demonstrated in class no later than one week after the lab date; all relevant code must be submitted using BlackBoard. Late submissions for labs will be accepted during the 'make up' labs for no more than 50% of credit.

Course project must be completed by students working in teams of two. Each team will demonstrate their work to the rest of the class at the end of the semester.

Academic misconduct

All students are expected to demonstrate integrity in the completion of their coursework. Academic integrity means doing one's own work and giving proper credit to the work and ideas of others. It is the responsibility of each student to become familiar with what constitutes academic dishonesty and plagiarism and to avoid all forms of cheating and plagiarism. Students who engage in plagiarism and other forms of academic misconduct will face academic and possibly disciplinary consequences. Academic sanctions can range from a reduced grade for the assignment to a failing grade for the course. From a disciplinary standpoint, an Academic Misconduct Report may be filed and a Faculty Hearing Board may impose sanctions such as probation, suspension or expulsion.

For further information on academic misconduct and its consequences, please consult the Student Code of Conduct and the Academic Misconduct Policy.


All students are expected to attend class sessions regularly. However, recognizing individual differences, each student is responsible for his/her own attendance and for making-up any missed study or work. Limited assistance will be offered to those with plausible reasons for absences; unexcused absences will result in the student being totally responsible for the make-up process.

Help with computers

The University offers some student assistants who may be of value in helping students with basic computer functionality only, not with program writing.

Students with disabilities

Please contact me privately to discuss your specific needs if you believe you need course accommodations based on the impact of a disability, medical condition, or if you have emergency medical information to share. I will need a copy of the accommodation letter from Student Disability Services in order to arrange your class accommodations. Contact Student Disability Services, Willard Hall, 101-04 if you are not already registered with them. Student Disability Services maintains the confidential documentation of your disability and assists you in coordinating reasonable accommodations with your faculty.

Grades and evaluation

Students will be evaluated regularly during the semester and should be aware of their progress continuously during the semester. The final course grade will be reported according to the stated University policy.

The final course grade will be calculated according to the following distribution of points:

Labs (10 labs @ 3 pts each)            30
Course project        25
Midterm    20
Final exam     25
Total 100

Course letter grade will be determined as follows:

A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D D- F
94-100 90-93.99 87-89.99 84-86.99 80-83.99 77-79.99 74-76.99 70-73.99 67-69.99 64-66.99 60-63.99 0-59.99